Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Growing Pakistani Arsenal; Implications for India

Brig Vinod Anand & Arun Sahgal
Indian policy and strategic establishment is exhibiting little or no concern about growing Pakistani nuclear arsenal, this is despite the fact that Pakistan is touted to have more nuclear weapons than UK and has emerged as the fifth largest nuclear weapon state behind, USA, Russia, China and France. Islamabad is estimated to be increasing the production of its fissile material by coming on stream of plutonium enrichment facilities at Khushab II and in few years Khushab III where the work appears to have been stepped up enabling Pakistan to add nearly 25 additional kilograms of weapon grade plutonium every year starting 2012-13. According to knowledgeable western sources Pakistan today has a stockpile of anywhere between 90 - 110 or even more weapons.

Pakistan has also stepped up production of its delivery vehicles and introduced a new element in the sub continental strategic equations by introducing nuclear capable tactical missile Nasr, presumably going by Pakistani assertions, to counter India’s pre emptive offensive doctrine. The operational deployment of this missile appears to have been tested during Pakistani Exercise Azam – e – Nau conducted in May this year. Pakistan has also upgraded its missile production capability at Chinese aided National Development Complex located near Fatehjang approximately 50Kms South West of Islamabad in Kala Chatta Mountains. Its production rates have since been enhanced with ability to produce around 12 missiles per year of Ghazni and Shaeen I and II categories.

It is obvious that Pakistan is both qualitatively and quantitatively is upgrading its strategic forces, as deterrence against India’s growing conventional capabilities. It is equally important to highlight that as Pakistan’s technological capabilities rise, aided and abetted by China and others; it is increasingly likely to move into zone of competitive advantage. In this regard two more developments merit mention. One operationalising Nasr indicates miniaturization of warheads, which inter alia would also mean Pakistani land attack and air attack cruise missiles BABUR and RAAD could also become nuclear capable. Second with navigation and enhanced surveillance inputs available from Chinese space based systems Pakistan could gradually shift to ‘launch on warning’ (LOW) mode giving it a much more potent first strike capability but in the bargain muddying the stability and instability paradigm in the subcontinent forcing both countries to upgrade their state of readiness and increasing risk of accidental launches. This is a dangerous development given the fact that there exists within Pakistani nuclear establishment certain degree of over confidence on its nuclear capabilities and ability to leverage its doctrinal ambiguity to hold India to ransom through unabated proxy war.
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